Questions I've asked over the last few years that never would have crossed my mind before I became a mystery writer and editor:
- If you're found with a murder victim and the police take your clothes for examination, will they also take your underwear?
- If a murder occurs at a nudist colony, and the suspect is a colony member, how does the pat down work during arrest?
- Is it easy to break into a home by crawling through a doggy door?
- How does a groundhog react when cornered?
- What's the approval process for exhuming a body? How hard is it to dig up a casket? What does an exhumed body look like? And smell like?
- If I'm writing about someone who's a douchebag, when I spell out the word, is the bag removed from the douche?
- How many synonyms are there for male genitalia, and why does the word johnson make some women laugh so much?
It pays to have friends. How do I know the answer to the underwear question? I asked my friend
It pays to have friends who pay attention. How did I even come up with the nudist colony question? I learned from my friend Donna Andrews (thank you, Donna) that a Catholic church in our neighborhood used to be the home of a nudist colony, and in the 1940s, a murder occurred
there. That sparked a very interesting discussion about where a nudist might try to hide a weapon (not having pockets and whatnot), and it
It also pays to have friends with a good sense of humor. My unpublished novel involves a phone-sex operator, and writing it required coming up with a lot of synonyms for certain body parts. How a writer toils for her art. And what she learns, sometimes, is that the wrong word can take a reader from eagerly turning pages to laughing out loud. And not at an intended time, either. So thank you to my friend Laura Weatherly, who several years ago burst out laughing when she read about a man on the phone talking about his johnson. "You have to find another word," she told me. Done.
It pays to have access to the Internet. No, this isn't for research for the phone-sex book. It was for the groundhog research. When I began writing my short story "The Shadow Knows," (which is a finalist for the Macavity and the Anthony awards at this week's Bouchercon mystery convention), I knew I wanted to write a caper about a grumpy man who believes his town's groundhog is responsible for
|Old groundhog who visited my yard.|
Now, back to the questions:
- Will the police take your underwear? If the victim's blood has soaked through to them, they might indeed.
- Can you break into a home by crawling through a doggy door? Yep, if you're petite. But beware: there's going to be a dog inside. And he might not be too happy with you.
- What are the details about exhuming a body? Every state's process is different, but it's not that easy to get approval, and digging up a casket, then breaking the vault open, is hard work. And then there's the state the body might be in. I'll give you one word: mold. Yuck.
- If I'm writing about someone who's a douchebag, when I spell out the word, is the bag removed from the douche? Nope. In this context, it's all one word. (And you thought copy editing was boring.)
- How many synonyms are there for male genitalia, and why does the word johnson make some women laugh so much? This one, I'm leaving up to you to find out. Ask your friends. Make a party of it.
- How does the pat down work during arrest of a nudist? This one ... well, you'll have to read "Murder a la Mode" to find out. It's too good to give away.
- And, finally, how does a groundhog react when cornered? This question is answered above, but if you want to see the resulting story, which puts all the fun facts to good use, head over to my website: http://www.barbgoffman.com/The_Shadow_Knows.html.
So, authors, what's the most interesting question you've researched while writing? And readers, what's the most interesting tidbit you've learned from fiction? Please share your fun facts. I really want to know.